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The Essential Translation of the Ancient Chinese Book of the Tao
  1. Newsletter
  2. The Essential Translation of the Ancient Chinese Book of the Tao (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
  3. Tao Te Ching – Stephen Mitchell
  4. Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu directs our attention to our all artificial contrivances and makes his reference to the famous wu-wei no artificial action by pointing out the sources of all the problems are artificial distinctions, artificial desires for them and their attachments:.

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Without boasting cleverness, there would be no quarrel among people. Without treasuring precious wealth and utensils, there would be no theft by people. Without knowing the objects of desires, there will be no dissatisfaction among people. When people lack of knowledge of distinctions and desires for them, Cleaver persons will not attempt to artificially interfere. If no artificial things are done, nothing is unaccomplished. Tao is an empty or unused vessel. How much it is employed, there will never be exhausted. Thus, it is the source principle of Ten Thousand Things. Dull the sharpness, and untangle the not, curve the prominence, and share the dust, then it is ever present in every depths.

And yet no one knows where it comes from. It is indeed the principle of all principles. Heaven and earth have no particular favor, They see Ten Thousand Things as straw dogs with indifference and equality. The sage the person in accordance with Tao have no particular interest. They see all people equally as straw dogs. The more it is bent, the more it will yield.


Plenty words conceals the ultimate reality, and hold steadfast onto the hub. The Valley spirit is immortal. The Spirit is the Female, the Primal Mother. Her ultimate gateway is the principle of heaven and earth. The spirit is veiled and dim, And yet when used, it requires no toil. Heaven and earth endure forever. Why are heaven and earth forever? They are not generated. Thus, they do last very long.

Therefore, the sage, the person in tune with Tao, stays behind others and yet is ahead of them to endure. Being detached, he is one with everybody. Through egolessness, the sage accomplish its Way. Those who are close to Tao well resembles to water. Water well benefits Ten Thousand Things without any strife, resides where most people hate to be. Therefore, in dwelling, well reside the lower land, In meditation, reach well the lowest depth, Be well gentle to others, Be well truthful in words, Be well trustworthy in ruling.

Be well competent in doing things Be well timed in action, No strife, then no blame. Better cease short than fill out completely. The Sharper the blade is made, the more quickly it becomes dull. When the house is filled with gold and jades, it is hard to guard them. It is the way of heaven to quickly retire, once everything is well accomplished.

Carrying body and soul as well as embracing the One, Can you escape from the distinction? Attending fully and becoming supple, Can you be a Newborn baby? Washing and cleansing the ultimate truth, Can you be without scar? Caring of all people and ruling the country, Can you be in non-action? As the gate of heaven opens and closes, Can you act a female?

Having Insight and opening to all things, Can you be ignorant? Generating and nourishing the Ten Thousand Things, Giving birth to and yet being not possessive of them, Accomplishing and yet not boasting, Leading and yet not dominating, This is the Primal Virtue of the sage. Shape clay into vessel, It is nothing the emptiness that is of use as a vessel. Open the door and frame the window, It is nothing the hollowness that is of use as a room.

Beings are useful, because nothing is of use as beings. The five colors bind the eye, The five sounds deafen the ear. The five flavors craze our taste, Racing and hunting craze the mind, The precious things disturb the human action. Therefore, the sage of no action takes the basic needs and does not take the pleasures for sense. The sage let that go, and chooses this. What is this to make a big fuss about whether treasured or disgraced?

Ultimately it ought to be to take treasuring for disgrace, and vice versa, And simply consider loss and gain the same. It is a folly indeed to make a big fuss about whether treasured or disgraced. Because we possess our body, we worry about the loss of the invaluable. Treasure the person who worries about the world as if it were his own body, Entrust the world to him who considers the world as his own body. See the invisible, Listen to the inaudible and grasp the intangible. This invisible, inaudible and intangible is undefinable. Thus unified, it is the One, Nothing is brighter, nothing is dimmer, Underminate, it is unnameable.

Ultimately it is Nothing. This is the condition of the conditionless, The form of the formless, It is beyond all descriptions. Welcome this invisible at the beginning, Follow this invisible to the end. The Ancient Master was subtle, mysterious, proud and responsive, And its depth is unfathomable.

Because he is unfathomable, What we can do is only to figuratively recount it. More than careful like preparing to cross the large river in the winter, Hesitant like attending the enemies in every direction, Being gentle like a visiting guest, Yielding like ice about to melt, Simple like an uncarved block, Empty like a cave, Mixed with anything like muddy water.

Who can be so serene that makes gradually muddy water settle? Who can let things grow through invisible motion? The person in tue with Tao does not seek fulfillment, And yet always recovers afresh from any exhaustion.. Should you empty yourself of everything, In perfect serenity, Then you may ultimately intuit, The Ten Thousand things in flux, Also return to the source ultimately. The Ten Thousand things move in various ways, Each returns to the source, Returning is in serenity, And this is called the Primordial ought. This returning, the way of Tao, is called Constancy.

The one who is aware of Constancy are Wise. Not knowing Constancy leads to disaster. Awaken to Constancy, the one is understanding, The understanding one is just, To be just is the virtue of the ruler. With the virtue of the rule, the universe is one with Tao, Being one with Tao, there is eternity. The highest ruler is unknown to the people, To the next comes the ruler whom the people love and honor.

Then the one whom people fear. Then the one whom people despise. He who does not trust enough is not be trusted. When the Great Tao is out of use, Kindness and morality arise. When Smartness and intelligence are born, The Great pretense begins. When no peace is among the family, Filial Piety and thoughtfulness arise. When the country is confused and in disarray, The royal minister appear. Should the ruler eradicate holiness and renounce intelligence, The people would benefit one hundred times.

Should the ruler exterminate benevolence and discard morality, The people would return to the authentic filial piety and thoughtfulness. Should cleverness be eradicated and asset-making decreased, Bandits and thieves will disappear. These three statements are not sufficient, So let the following are to be complemented. Should learning be exterminated, there would be no worry. What the people fear is not to be feared at all. Endless are indeed the learning of distinctions and its complication.

People are cheerful as if they were invited to a great feast , And climbed on the view-tower in the Spring. On the contrary, I alone am away from such spree, And am cheerless, like a baby who has not yet learned to smile, I am dreary , not knowing where to go like a homeless dog. Other people show off their cleverness, while I alone appears dumb. Others are clear and smart, while I alone looks uncertain, As if the ocean wave were drifting, And as if the restless wind blew without direction. Others are competent, while I alone appears stubborn and lost.

I alone unique, holding dearly onto the great Mother.

The Essential Translation of the Ancient Chinese Book of the Tao (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

In this Chapter, it is clearly declared that learning of distinctions is terminated. The virtue of the sage is to follow Tao and Tao alone. What Tao is indeed is elusive and evasive. Evasive and elusive, and yet it has the image. Elusive and evasive, and yet it has the essence. Profound and dark, and yet therein is the spirit. Extremely real is this spirit and therein lies the evidence. From ancient till now, it is called Tao and is the principle of all things. Being in tune with Tao, the sage is aware of the world as it actually is.. To yield is to be complete, To be crooked is to be straight, To empty is to abound, To wear out is to be renewed, To decrease is to achieve, To have a lot is to be confused.


Therefore, the sage embraces the one, and is exemplary to all, Without showing off oneself, He is enlightened, Without asserting oneself, He is blind. Without bragging oneself, Without boasting oneself, He does endure. Without quarrel and strife, He is unequal to any one else. By truthfully yielding, The sage returns to Tao. This may be one of the best chapters which describes the way of the sage and the authentic human existence.. Inaudible speech is the way of nature. Therefore, roaring wind does not endure the morning, Drizzling rain does not last all day.

Who can accomplish this? Only heaven and earth can. If heaven and earth can not even be eternal, How is it possible for the human at all? Therefore, he who follows Tao is one with Tao. He who has lost Tao is lead astray. He who is one with Tao is the one whom Tao does also welcome. He who is one with virtue is the one whom virtue does also welcome. He who is lost is the one whom the loss does also welcome.

He who is unworthy of trust is the one who can be trusted by no one.. He who tiptoes cannot stand long. He who strides cannot walk afar. He who shows oneself off cannot be enlightened. He who asserts oneself is blind. He who brags oneself has no power. He who boasts oneself does not endure. Molded from the chaos, It is before the beginning of heaven and earth. Silent and formless, It is both independent and constant. I do not know its identify, So it is called Tao, I might dare to call it the Great.

Being Great, it flows. It flows far and away, then it is the return to itself. Therefore, Tao is great. Heaven is great, Earth is great, The ruler is great. They are four great in the universe. The ruler, the highest human follower of Tao, is one of them. The humans follow the earth. Earth follows heaven.

Heaven follows Tao. Tao follows what is natural. Tao is often also called the Way of No action and what is natural.

Tao Te Ching – Stephen Mitchell

The heavy is the root of the light. The stillness is the master of the motion. Therefore, the sage, travelling all day, Does not lose sight of the cart of provision. Although there are beautiful sights, He remains serene and unattached. Why should the lord the sage of ten thousand chariots be frivolous? A good traveller leaves no traces. A good speaker makes no slips. A good counter needs no abacus. A good closed gate needs no lock and cannot be opened.

A good tieing needs no knots and cannot be loosened. Therefore, the sage is always of good avail and abandons no one. He takes care of all things, and abandons no things. Therefore, the good person is the teacher for the no good disciple. The no good person disciple is of use for the good.

This is the crux of the ultimate truth. On the contrary, this good is what ought to be, how a person ought to be. If you know your masculinity, And maintain yourself to be female, You will become the Valley for heaven and earth. If become the Valley for heaven and earth, You will be inseparable with the constant virtue potency , And you will returns to a new born baby.

If you know the white, And comprise the black, You become exemplary for heaven and earth. If you become exemplary for heaven and earth, You will never be against the constant virtue, And will return to the infinite principle. If you know your honor, And embrace your disgrace, You will be the Valley of heaven and earth. If you become the Valley of heaven and earth, You will be filled with the constant virtue, And will return to the uncarved block.

If the uncarved block is cut into pieces, It will become a vessel specialist. The sage employs it merely for a provincial governor. Thus the great severing cuts no pieces.. Do you intend to take over heaven and earth and govern it? I do not think that you can not do so. Heaven and earth is a divine vessel, That you cannot govern. Should you attempt to govern it, You will ruin it. Should you try to cling to it, You will lose it. Therefore, Some go ahead, while other are following. Some breathe are easily, while other breathe hard.

Some are robust, while other are feeble. Some collapse, while other become depraved. Therefore, the sage eschews the extremes, extravagances and arrogance. Anyone who advises a ruler with Tao, He cautions not to conquer heaven and earth with force, And recommends him to return the no artificial action.

For thorn bushes spring up wherever the army stations. Famine always follows the big warfare. As fruits gently ripen, The good rule is done without no artificial action, Never venture to conquer by force. Things of governing are done without boasting, Things are done without taking credit. Things are done by following the inevitable, Things are done without force. The extravagance is soon taken over by the decline. This is against the way of Tao, Being against Tao comes to an untimely end. Sharp weapons are instruments of curse. People always despise them.

Therefore, the person who follows Tao does not come even near to them. The wise person employs the left. The person of war employs the right. Weapons are instruments of curse and not the implements of the wise. Only when there is no choice, the wise will use them. No wise values victory.

If anyone values the victory, Then, he will delights in killing. If anyone delights in killing, He cannot realize what he ought to do in heaven and earth. At a happy occasion, the left is revered. At an adverse occasion, the right is cherished. In the army, the commander stands on the left, The vice-commander stands on the right. This means that the war is carried out like a funeral. Because so many people are killed, With sorrow, soldiers are set themselves in the battle ground, Therefore, even if the victory is won, they perform the war like a funeral.

This chapter has been considered one of those in which their commentaries are mixed. It is repetitious, too explanatory. Tao is forever of no name. Small as it may be, Tao as the uncarved block cannot be used by anyone in the universe. If kings and lords could follow it well, Ten Thousand Things will spontaneously obey them.

Heaven and earth would make love to each other, Sweet dew will thereby fall gently. With no decrees, people will be naturally ruled. When the whole uncarved block is divided, The pieces become instruments and in need of their names. When there are already many names, It is also necessary to know their limitations. When their limitations are known, There are no things in danger.

Tao is manifest in the universe, Like the water flows from the rivers and the valleys into Yan Ze River and ocean.

Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu

To know others is to be wise, To know oneself is to be enlightened. To master others is to be powerful, To master oneself is to be strong. To know that one has enough is to be fertile. To devote oneself to Tao is to be resolute. To die but not to perish is to be ever present. The great Tao is omnipresent, both to the left or to the right.

Ten Thousand Things depend on it, And yet it makes no speech. The great Tao creates everything, And yet it makes no claim. It nourishes Ten Thousand Things, And yet it does not call itself the master. If one follows the great symbol Tao and resides in the universe, There will be no harm. There will be pleasantness, peace and no incidence.

Music and feast arrests the passer-by, And yet Tao is too simple to have flavor. It is invisible if anyone tries to see. It is inaudible if anyone tries to listen. It cannot be exhausted, how much it may be employed..

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In order to shrink it, it is necessary to initially have it harden itself awhile. In order to weaken it, it is necessary to initially have it strengthened a while. In order to demolish it, it is necessary to initially have it prosper a while. In order to acquire it, it is necessary to initially have it take a while.

This is the mysterious enlightenment. That which is weak and yields overcome the hard and strong. Just as the finish should not come out of the depth of water, The sharp weapons should not be shown to people. Tao always remains in no artificial action, And yet nothing is left undone. Should kings and lords follow Tao, Ten Thousand Things would naturally mutate. Should desires arise in their mutation, I would be ready to pacify them with the uncarved block with no name. Should they become the uncarved block with no name. They would become desireless. Should kings and loads pacify them with desirelessness, The universe would spontaneously be one with peace.

The person of superior virtue is in no action, And yet leaves nothing undone. The person of inferior virtue attempts all actions, And yet remains without accomplishments. The person of superior kindness does something, And yet leaves nothing undone. The person of superior morality does something, And yet is left with a lot to be done. The person of superior rite does something, And yet is left responded by no one, And demands it by pulling his sleeves.

Therefore, when Tao is lost, The virtue is called for. When the virtue is lost, The kindness is in demand. When the kindness is lost, The morality becomes imperative. When morality is lost, The ritual prevails. The ritual is no other than the loss of trust and royalty, the beginning of tumult. If that first line resembles the famous zen koan "what is the sound of one hand clapping? It's the compulsive need to answer unanswerable questions that is, in Taoist philosophy, the mind's great dysfunction. Naming is the origin of all particular things. We're accustomed to perceiving our world and all the objects in it by naming them.

But what if we stop obsessively naming everything and instead just - pardon me while I slip in to full on hippy mode for a moment - rest in awareness? What the Tao Te Ching does, time and time again, is attempt to show us how we might see things if we could spend more time in awareness, and less in naming. Perhaps if we were more aware, we would worry less, and could see better what actually needs doing. But the central thing the Tao Te Ching asks us to be aware of is not the world, but our self.

We all know the term, but do we really know what it means?

What would it be like to care for all things as much as we cared for our self? In the words of David Foster Wallace , whose literary philosophy is a natural mirror of Taoist thought, the default setting for people is to be "uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out". Not because we are physically alone, as we know loneliness hits heaviest in crowds. But because we are mired in a deep-seated and near-universal delusion. Despite knowing that we are part of a vast universe, on a massively complex planet shared with seven billion other human lives, we continue with the truly insane perception that we are the centre of the world.

Next best is a leader who is loved. Next, one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised. If you don't trust the people, you make them untrustworthy. The Master doesn't talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people say, 'Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!

Verse 17 of the Tao Te Ching reflects on one of the text's consistent themes, how to lead others with integrity. Today we seem to actively select against leaders who demonstrate self-awareness. Instead, in political figures such as Tony Blair and Boris Johnson, the mass-media landscape favours survival of the biggest and most monstrously deformed egos.

They're an unavoidable by-product of power, a scum of pure ego that forms on the surface of society and imitates the appearance of leadership. The Tao Te Ching is a 2,year-old reminder that today, as then, every one of us has a choice to practise self-awareness and exercise our own power in and over the world. That might come as more of a nasty wakeup call than a comfort to some of us.

As Wallace said: "It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Take this collection of more than versions of the famous opening verse: The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.